Clarkson researchers develop new way to personalize medicine
Monday, February 17, 2014 - 5:05 pm

POTSDAM -- Clarkson University researchers have developed a new way to personalize medicine, according to a report by the Royal Society of Chemistry.

The system devised by Evgeny Katz, a Clarkson professor, could be used for releasing drugs into the body.

Biocomputer-based logic systems that process biomolecular signals could revolutionize drug administration, according to a release from the college. By harnessing signal-responsive electrode surfaces that respond to biochemical signals, widespread personalized medicine takes a step closer to reality.

Historically, drug-release systems have been plagued by slow and uncontrolled release. Various external triggers, including temperature, pH and biochemical species, have been used to stimulate drug release. Systems activated by biochemical signals are often complicated and limited, combining both the receptor and the release system. Physical separation of these two components on individual electrodes would simplify the process.

Expanding on their recent work with glucose sensing electrodes, Katz, in collaboration with Jan Halámek from the State University of New York at Albany, has developed a logical biomolecule release system.

An electrode covered by a redox-active, iron(III)-cross-linked alginate polymer film with physically entrapped biomolecules serves as the substance-releasing component and a pyrroloquinoline quinone (PQQ)-modified electrode serves as the biocatalytic electrode.

The system is highly selective as it responds only to specific combinations of biomolecular input signals that are processed by carefully designed combination of logic gates. Upon oxidation of nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NADH), the biocatalytic electrode produces a negative potential and reductive current.

In turn, the iron(III)-cross-linked ions are reduced to iron(II), the film becomes soluble and the entrapped biomolecules are released. Using NADH to trigger the release is important as it can be generated by numerous biocatalytic systems, imparting wide applicability to the model system.

Katz says the novelty of their approach is the release of the biomolecule on receiving particular signals, which could eventually be those from a patient’s body. He emphasizes that this is the first system integrating biocomputing with biomolecule release: ‘The study demonstrates the use of biocomputing – in other words, information processing by biochemical means – for triggering another process. This might be compared to connecting a computer with a printer. In this combination the computer is processing the information and the printer is printing the results. Our biochemical system conceptually works in this way.’

A Prasanna de Silva, a molecular computation expert at Queens University Belfast, U.K., describes the system as a rare example of logical drug release. While Professor in Unconventional Computing Andy Adamatzky at the University of the West of England, U.K., says that 'Katz's lab has opened new application domains for future and emergent computing paradigms. They transform unconventional computing from a purely theoretical field to a vibrant experimental area where concepts of unorthodox information processing and decision making can be realized with biomolecules and, potentially, applied to personal illness treatment.’

Although this elegant concept is not ready for real medical applications just yet, work is already underway using real biofluids in pursuit of this goal.

The report can be found at